Saturday, September 03, 2005

Excuses, Excuses (and Lies)

Josh Marshall reads the WaPo article describing how the White House is engaged in a full-scale effort to shift blame for the slow, woefully inadequate emergency response to Katrina onto the backs of state and local officials. Apparently, the original "Who knew?" excuse just wasn't cutting it, so now they're rolling out this new and improved model. Or as Josh puts it:
Now at least we have the storyline. The Bush administration wasn't caught sleeping on the job while New Orleans went under with a gutted FEMA run by a guy who got fired from his last job policing horse shows. In fact, according to the new White House storyline, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans didn't ask for help quickly enough. And the White House was powerless to act until they did. Apparently they couldn't even reschedule the president's vacation until the locals got the right forms signed.

Unfortunately for the career of this latest excuse, AmericaBlog is ready with this reality check, drawn straight from the White House's own August 27th press release on "Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana," which reads, in part:
The President today declared an emergency exists in the state of Louisiana...

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population...

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency...

The 27th was the Saturday before Katrina hit. So which is it? Was the President overstepping his constitutional authority on Saturday the 27th? Or is the White House currently engaged in a campaign of organized lying to cover up the federal government's mismanagement of a disaster relief effort it was duly authorized to coordinate?


UPDATE: Over at TPM Cafe, nascardaughter has dug up the actual legal criteria that govern DHS/FEMA involvement. There's little doubt they were met in this case. No more excuses, indeed.


SECOND UPDATE: (Via Atrios) Pamela Leavey at The Democratic Daily reads the same WaPo article that Josh did and finds that, despite its overall critical tone, it contains at least one uncritically recycled, baldfaced lie from an anonymous Bush administration official, to wit:
As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

Pamela Leavey conclusively demonstrates that this claim is utterly false, simply by linking to both the official state declaration of emergency [PDF], dated the 26th, and the letter Gov. Blanco sent to Bush [PDF] on the 28th, informing him that a state emergecy had been declared, and asking him to make the appropriate federal declaration (which, as we have seen, he subsequently did, on the 27th).

This raises the questions: Why did the Washington Post reporters and editors accept, at face value, and then publish, in their newspaper, a plainly politically self-serving, anonymous leak from an administration official, rather than doing the very minimal fact checking that would have been required to determine that the leak was a baldfaced lie? And: What is the WaPo going to do now, to redress such a flagrant instance of journalistic and editorial malpractice?

I won't be holding my breath.

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